Most children who get bitten by a dog are bitten by the family dog. Surprised? Those aren’t the stories that get reported on the news though… those stories don’t sell. In fact, it’s probable that the kids who get bitten by the family dog don’t talk about it much at all. It’s kind of one of those ‘family secrets’ (we wouldn’t want anyone to know we have that kind of dog!)
A Canadian company called Doggone Safe put together a kid/dog safety program that now has a global reach. In a simple and fun interactive approach young kids are taught how to Be A Tree (or a rock) to keep themselves safe around boisterous dogs, their own or strange ones. In addition, with the aid of large, very explicit photos the kids are taught how to read basic dog language.
I have had the pleasure and privilege of being a licensed Be A Tree presenter for 4 years now and just recently I presented the program to the primary classes at a local elementary school for the fourth time. The big bonus in this every year consistency is that by the time the kids reach grade 3 and are participating in the program for the 4th time, they really do get it. I am always amazed that they can provide the answers with noise and enthusiasm when asked!
Kids benefit from this new knowledge; so do the teachers. In fact there are dog-fearful adults that have benefitted from knowing just a small amount of dog-speak. A little knowledge is a great fear destroyer!
Yawning, licking chops, a raised fore paw, a half moon eye, are some of the keep-away signals that kids are taught to look for. Those are excellent canine signals to be able to identify quickly…good basic dog-speak.
There are licensed Be A Tree presenters all over the country. If you interact with groups of kids at any level, check out the programme at be-a-tree.com and get your kids dog-savvy. It’s the kind of info that will serve them for a lifetime.
Then there are the households with small children and puppies or young adult dogs…jumping up, nipping, stealing food, knocking wee ones to the floor and the ensuing tearful wailing and screaming. My oh my, no fun for anyone!
At this time of year with more visitors to your home, parents and older children more distracted, schedules are off kilter and an endless supply of goodies, there’s a much greater chance of a dog bite.
No one really has the time to start reshaping a dog’s behaviour in these few frantic weeks before the silly season. What to do?
Management is the key.
At times of chaos, confine the pup somewhere safe and out of the way. A crate is ideal. With a fresh raw bone or a chew toy stuffed with cream cheese and kibble, pup will be happy and happily out of the way.
If the kids win you over and pup is allowed to hang out with a group of kids (not recommended), at least appoint one of the older dog-savvy children ( one who is at least 10 years old) to be in charge. Remove all snacks from the area and from kids’ hands. You might consider taking a moment and showing all the kids how to Be A Tree (or a rock).
At no time should this group be away from your vigilance. The dog-savvy child can be your helper but ultimately, you are still in charge. I know, it’s a pain BUT if something occurred and a child was bitten, first off, the dog will be blamed even though no one really knows what happened. Secondly, everyone’s fun time will be ruined by something that was so easily prevented.
Indeed, your family dog is a valued family member and it really is an inescapable truth that ultimately it is your responsibility to keep everyone safe.
In the busy few weeks ahead, commit to managing your family pet and put learning dog-speak on your family agenda for 2015.
Be safe and have fun!
If you’ve got a puppy get your kids involved in puppy training. They will learn how to help with potty training your new puppy in my kids’ puppy training ebook available here.
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